Say As I Do: John Boyne

Say As I Do: John Boyne

John Boyne’s book The Heart’s Invisible Furies (Hogarth | 9781524760786) was released last week and I interviewed Boyne for this Friday’s Marginalia podcast. While I had him on Skype, I asked if he had a message he’d like to send to independent booksellers. Here’s what he said (as well as how to correctly pronounce his name):



This is John Boyne. I’m the author of the novel THE HEART’S INVISIBLE FURIES.

My younger sister actually works in an independent bookshop and has done for many years now in Dublin. And I worked in a bookshop for many years as well–for seven years–while I was getting my writing career off the ground. So I know what it’s like to be in those places, to work in them and the joy of really hand selling to customers… of feeling that kind of passion for books.

And you know that lovely moment where somebody comes in maybe and says, “My 13-year-old kid has just really got into reading and has read this and this. What would you recommend next?” And the bookseller goes, “Great! Well, come with me!” I miss that; I loved that; and I am grateful for the passion and support that all booksellers really bring to bookselling and to literature and to writers. I think all writers should be grateful for that.

Review: ‘The Burning Girl’ by Claire Messud

Review: ‘The Burning Girl’ by Claire Messud

Adolescence, those angst ridden years when friendships sometimes resemble love affairs and the whole world turns fraught, might be a time best appreciated in hindsight. The Burning Girl, Claire Messud’s latest novel, offers just that — a haunting, layered, elegiac story about the abiding intensity of friendship between adolescent girls and the inevitable, painful unravelling of that friendship. As with Messud’s last great novel, The Woman Upstairs, this is not a particularly lighthearted read, though it is overflowing with exquisite writing and sophisticated inquiry into the perennial question of whether we can really know those closest to us.

Julia, the novel’s cautious and cerebral narrator, befriends charismatic, bold Cassie in nursery school and counts her as a “secret sister” throughout their shared childhood. The book’s opening section introduces us to Cassie and Julia in the summer before seventh grade, the final, pre-lapsarian era of their friendship, during which they volunteer at an animal shelter and enjoy tanning, listening to Katy Perry, picnicking at the swimming quarry, and, most thrillingly, exploring an abandoned asylum in the woods near their very small hometown of Royston, Massachusetts. Both beloved only children, Julia and Cassie nonetheless come from different backgrounds — Julia’s father is a dentist and her mother a freelance journalist, whereas Cassie’s single mother is a hospice worker with a blank history. Cassie’s father is absent. During the course of story, Cassie’s mother marries a sinister and Puritanical local doctor whose motives seem at best misguided and at worst malicious. Though we never learn what is happening in Cassie’s household, it can’t be good since Cassie begins running away, and her friendship base shifts to the wrong sort as the story progresses.

Chuck’s Big Ride, part 2.

Do you remember Chuck’s Big Ride?

In 2015, Chuck Robinson–who co-founded Village Books in Bellingham, WA, with his wife Dee–began a 2400 mile journey on his bicycle, while Dee followed with the support camper. The goal was to bike from Bellingham to Galva, Illinois, where Chuck was to attend his 50th high school reunion. Chuck pledged to contribute $1 per mile to three separate non-profit organizations.

I ‘covered’ the trek through StoryMap, until day 37 when an altercation with some dogs ended Chuck’s ride. The dogs were fine, but Chuck suffered a broken rib.

Two years later, Chuck is ready to climb back on the bike, starting another 2000 mile journey where the last one ended. And we’re following along again with another StoryMap: Chuck’s Big Ride Redux 2017.

“I’ll begin the ride on September 1st where those dogs took me down and, after saying hello to them, I’ll pedal on to Bar Harbor, Maine,” Chuck writes. “Once again, I’m pledging $1 per mile to each of three organizations.”

The three organizations are:

  • The mission of the Whatcom Community Foundation is to “amplify the force of philanthropy—by connecting people, ideas and resources—so that communities flourish.” It helps folks do amazing things in Whatcom County and beyond, making this world a better place for all of us to live. Donate to WCF.
  • Whatcom Community College is celebrating its 50th year—“building futures together since 1967.” WCC has been recognized as one of the leading community colleges in the nation and leads the region in cybersecurity and nursing education. Donate to WCC
  • The Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC) has been assisting booksellers in need since 1986, by helping in times of unexpected financial crises. BINC also has given scholarships to bookstore employees and their dependents, and assisted booksellers in attending industry events. Donate to BINC.

Those who want to help may pledge as little as 1¢ per mile for a total of $20, or you can join Chuck and pledge $1 or more per mile.

And if you want to join the ride along the way, Chuck welcomes the company. Just email him to set up an rendezvous point.

Review (Plus): ‘The Hawkweed Legacy’

Ms. America’s Review: I love when the wait is finally over and you get to touch, smell and devour the next book in a series, which I was able to do with The Hawkweed Legacy, book number two by screenwriter Irena Brignull, which hits shelves tomorrow.

A quick synopsis of the first one, The Hawkweed Prophecy, which will be released in paperback on the same day: Two girls–Poppy and Ember–are switched at birth: one has magic running through her veins, the other is a mere mortal. One is to be ruler over the Covens of Witches, the other will just be. A jealous aunt craving power casts a spell switching these two girls at birth, their altered destinies interfering with the powers of the universe. As Karma takes hold of their lives we see Mother Earth prevail and these two girls discover their true identities.

Throw in a homeless boy, Leo, who befriends them both (as they always do), who tests their love and loyalty while struggling with his own painful past.

The prophecy dictates Poppy Hawkweed will govern the witches, but she has fled to Africa to escape the responsibilities given to her. Charlock Hawkweed, her mother, leads the Coven in her absence. The witches start to revolt and Charlock knows she must find Poppy and lead her back to her rightful place: leader of the Coven.

At first I found Charlock to be a shy and timid witch who was a mere follower, doing whatever her sister, Raven, bid. My heart yearned for Charlock who held Ember close and protected her, despite knowing her true daughter was elsewhere. But the thought process of this unsuspecting reader was far from the truth. Charlock had a past–one we are told in this book, one which changed my thoughts from innocent Charlock to conniving and slightly evil. Once I had realized her true intentions it changed my thought process on how the Hawkweed Legacy was to ever come to fruition.

Our characters evolve giving more insight to the Prophecy. As Charlock goes in search of Leo’s mom, we glean more about his past and the powers he possesses. We also see Ember understand the depth of being a human tied to a Coven of very powerful witches. I was thrilled to see the development of the characters I so loved in the first book. I am hopeful to learn more in the third book which is promised to come sooner than later. I can’t get enough of the Fantasy genre, so this is good soul food if you’re in to that kind of thing!

In the classroom: Fantasy abounds! When you are overwhelmed grading papers, I encourage you to think outside the box and NOT make your students write a book report (CCLS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1-12.5). Instead invite your students to create a board game based on a Fantasy Book. Write clear rules of the game. Use direct quotes from the book. Use Character questions. Use Setting questions. It is a great way to establish comprehension without having to grade another paper. Each year Hasbro Gaming Lab opens up submissions for gaming ideas, so for extra credit have your students submit their idea and show you proof for submitting their book/game.

The Hawkweed Legacy by Irena Brignull (Weinstein Books | 9781602863149 | August 15, 2017) It’s time to check bounces. It’s time to check bounces.

When I send an issue of Books & Whatnot to your inbox, I use a program called Campaign Monitor. I also use Constant Contact on a daily basis for several of my clients. It’s when I look at campaigns and all of the open rates and click throughs involved that I’m reminded of the differences in various email marketing service providers.

Today we’re going to tackle bounces.